Manika Batra vs TTFI: Court appoints three-member committee to investigate match-fixing allegations

Manika Batra became the first female table tennis player from India to reach the round of 32 at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT/AFP via Getty Images

The Delhi High Court on Wednesday appointed a three-member committee to look into Manika Batra's allegation of being asked to throw her Olympic qualifier match in March this year.

The committee will comprise of two retired judges - Justice Vikramjit Sen, Justice AK Sikri and former sportsperson, Gurbachan Singh Randhawa. A report is expected to be submitted in four weeks.

What will the committee examine?

The mandate of the committee will be to examine the player's charges of being coerced by national coach Soumyadeep Roy to lose to fellow Indian and trainee Sutirtha Mukherjee and clear the decks for her Tokyo qualification. The panel has also been tasked with reviewing the selection process and the functioning of the Table Tennis Federation of India (TTFI).

Based on the committee's findings, the single judge bench of Justice Rekha Palli, who has been hearing the case, observed that she would consider appointing an administrator to run the federation.

TTFI, on its part, informed the court on Wednesday of its decision to withdraw the show-cause notice the body had issued to Batra. The 26-year-old had refused Roy's assistance courtside for her singles matches at the Tokyo Olympics, with TTFI now calling off any further action on her. Acting on the court's instruction, TTFI filed its correspondence with world table tennis body, ITTF (International Table Tennis Federation) regarding Batra on record. Justice Palli further asked the national federation to direct any further correspondence from ITTF on the matter to the Committee.

It is understood that TTFI had written to ITTF on September 23, the same day the court issued a stay on mandatory national camp attendance requesting them to probe Batra's case and offering assistance if needed. "When these sportspersons bring medals, you want to celebrate them.

When they are in trouble nobody wants to stand by them," Palli would state during Wednesday's hearing.

Why did the dispute arise in the first place?

Batra, India's highest-ranked female table tennis player, had moved court after being left out of the Asian Championships squad over her non-attendance of the national camp. Her petition also stated being allegedly pressured to throw her match, the conflict of interest on Roy's part since he was both national coach and Mukherjee's private coach and called to question the functioning of TTFI.

On September 23, the court stayed TTFI's mandatory camp attendance stipulation and would go on to ask the Sports Ministry to conduct an inquiry into her charges. Batra's counsel would state that the player was being "targeted" by TTFI for taking them to court and with the match throwing charges coming to ITTF's notice, she's being treated like an "accused" by the world body.

During Monday's hearing, Justice Palli had remarked that based on the report filed by the Ministry in a sealed cover, the player couldn't be faulted for seeking a personal coach. She further stated that she didn't want any player to be "harassed" and asked TTFI to give Batra a clean chit.

What next?

Away from court proceedings, Batra had a good run last week - winning the bronze in singles and doubles title together with Archana Kamath at the WTT Contender Lasko in Slovenia. In a week's time, she has the World Championships in Houston. As things stand, the case appears to be leaning heavily in her favour and the Committee's report in four weeks should throw light on what lies ahead.